Like much of southern England, the city of Bath was once part of the Roman empire. Here the Romans built a great temple and bath complex for the rich and wealthy to enjoy. Given their complex bathing routine it seems that it was the ancient equivalent of going to a spa retreat.
Getting in and where we stayed
We drove into Bath from The Cotswolds fairly late in the evening. We intended to camp, but for some reason they only take caravans (I really don’t understand the discrimination there).
So after doing a good deed and helping an old German chap complete the WiFi registration process (the guy knew absolutely no English and I was wondering how he survived at all in this country), we booked St Christopher’s Inn hostel in the city (£12.40 for dorms). Funnily, the same place we stayed at six years ago, only this time with a GPS it was ten times easier to find amongst Bath’s one way streets.
The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths museum is actually done very well. For £15 it’s a bit pricey, but the work they’ve done to preserve the baths and help you visualise it’s glory days really makes it worth it.
Oddly, the current street level is far higher than in Roman times, so when you look over the balcony on what appears to be the top floor you will find yourself at street level.
Throughout the museum you’ll find a heap of history, relics, coins and exhibits to help you piece together what’s left. There’s quite a maze underground explaining everything before you finally reach the baths.
Bath is a nice city to walk around day or night. Walking around the main centre you’ll find the Bath Abbey, plenty of shops and this cool bridge street. Pulteney Street bridge is lined with shops so as you cross it you may not notice it’s a bridge, but from a distance it’s quite nice over the River Avon.
The city is far out of the league of somewhere like Paris, but it has some nice terraces like The Circus and Royal Crescent.
The western counties of England are known well for their cider. Somerset, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire are very popular cider regions and about the only good places to source a perry from too.
So, given we were in the region we figured we should find a pub to do some tastings. Once again, I’ll say I love the character of English pubs. It seems a very English thing to do is to have a hanging wooden sign out the front like this (give or take the bird on a bike..).
As we walked past this pub, a funny looking Englishman who could very well have been Quasimodo’s brother (i.e. the brother who fortunately avoided the terrible back problems and hunch) stopped us to talk about my backpack of all things. Hilariously, he thought I was an Englishman with a very well rounded English accent. Clearly my accent is messed up and unreadable! He told us all sorts of stories about his travels 30 years ago before mobile phones and the internet and it got us thinking about how easy we have it.
Anyhoo, on to the cider… Eventually we found a place that offered five 1/3 pint tasters for £8.50.
It turns out that there is a ton of variation in English ciders. Variations of dry to sweet, carbonated and not carbonated, served cold vs served lukewarm. Very different to the dull sugar overloaded Australian cider market.
The verdict: The English counties make great cider and for me my tastes are definitely set towards chilled carbonated medium-dry ciders. None of that sugar loaded cordial that comes from Scandinavia or from Somersby.
My personal favourites were Thatcher’s Gold, Ashridge Gold and Dorset Draft.